Kota Bharu is the royal seat of Kelantan, as you’ll see from the many palaces and royal buildings across the city. The Northern city is strongly Muslim, and governed conservatively – it is quite common for public areas to be segregated by gender, and modest dressing is encouraged. It’s also the best place to witness the traditions and heritage of Malay culture, from artisanal crafts like songket weaving and rattan furniture-making to excellent, authentic food. No visit to Kota Bharu is complete without getting your fingers greasy with a cone of deep-fried colek (deep-fried seafood in crispy batter), or inhaling the aroma of a bowl of laksam (rice noodle dish served in a coconut and fish-based gravy).
If you only have time for one Kota Bharu attraction, make it a morning spent at Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah. The enormous indoor market is one of the most famous in Malaysia, and features the best of Kelantanese produce and crafts within its bustling confines.